After a long career on the Equity staff, Mary Lou Westerfield will step down as Western Regional Director/Assistant Executive Director at the end of 2013. She will continue with Equity, working on several key projects through the end of May, 2014, at which time she will retire. The announcement, which Mary Lou explained was based on what is best for her and her husband Ernie, was made at the May National Council meeting.
"I’ve given a lot of thought to where my life should be - both professionally and personally," said Mary Lou. "I’ve been extremely lucky in my career and I’m very proud to have played a role in the many achievements Equity has made on behalf of the membership. But as I reflected over these last few months, I knew I would not ask for another contract term. When presented with the opportunity to work on important projects for Equity, I quickly accepted. It’s the best of both worlds and I look forward to staying involved."
She expressed her gratitude to everyone, saying: "I have been truly honored to be the Western Regional Director. I have enjoyed great relationships with the Western Regional Board, our western liaisons and our staff, both in Los Angeles and nationally. I am grateful for their support and especially to Mary, for her support and understanding."
Mary Lou was named to her current post in 2008 after six months of juggling the responsibilities on an interim basis while still working as the National Director, Policy. Mary Lou oversaw all operations, collective bargaining and contracts in the Western Region and served as an integral part of Equity’s leadership team.
"Mary Lou has been a dedicated member of the Equity family who has won the admiration and respect of members and staff alike," said Executive Director Mary McColl. "As a member of staff, she called upon her first-hand experience, both as a performer and a member of Council, to address challenges, provide insightful advice and help shape policies that benefit our members. Although I know she will retire next May, I am happy to know that she will work on projects for us and share her expertise until then."
Reflecting upon her decision and her future, Mary Lou said, "Over the holidays my husband Ernie and I took a cruise on the Danube. That trip helped me to realize change can be good and that there a lot of things still to be experienced and we don’t want to miss any of them. As wonderful as Los Angeles is, our journey will take us back to New York, where we have so many close friends and family. And that, for us, is very exciting."
An Equity member since 1973, Mary Lou joined the staff in 1990 as a Business Rep in the Los Angeles office. In 1991 she became the Associate Director of The Actor’s Work Program where she was responsible for outreach to the entertainment community for funding and program promotion as well as acted as a peer adviser and intake officer. In 1995, she returned to Equity as the National Director, Policy. She continued in that position until her appointment as the Western Regional Director/Assistant Executive Director.
In addition to her responsibilities, Mary Lou has been an integral part of the Manhattan Plazawhere she serves as Chair of the Policy Committee, which is responsible for advising management regarding the issues and needs of performing artists/support personnel and reviews applications of prospective tenants. For several years, she and managed the 25-person VITA office in New York. She is the Executive Secretary of the Four A’s and has served on several boards, including Career Transitions For Dancers, Theatre Authority, Inc and the Actors Fund Western Council.
Prior to joining Equity on the staff side, Mary Lou appeared in numerous stage productions, including FOLLIES, BALLROOM, MOST HAPPY FELLA and ZORBA. She served as the Second Vice President of both Equity and its sister performing arts union, Screen Actors Guild. She also served on the Equity Council for 18 years and the SAG Board for ten (10) years.